corrected: Yahoo, Google and Microsoft have agreed to limit the information they share with foreign governments, the result of widespread criticism over human rights. The three are working with human rights groups to create a set of guidelines to govern how they operate in countries where free speech and privacy are restricted.
The companies also said they would assess the human rights landscape in a country before they cut new business agreements there. The agreement, called the Global Network Initiative, stems from Congressional hearings where the companies were blasted for their cooperation with the Chinese government.
Google had been criticized for censoring its search results to appease the Chinese government's restrictions on free speech. Microsoft also has been criticized for cooperating in the censorship of Chinese blogs.
But, one of the more high-profile cases involved Yahoo's release of identifiable information about pro-democracy writers in China who were using Yahoo mail to spread their messages. Last year, a human rights group sued Yahoo, accusing the company of abetting the torture of the writers by giving the Chinese government the information it needed to find them.
At Yahoo's shareholder's meeting earlier this year - the one where investor Carl Icahn was expected to launch a proxy fight but instead settled for a compromise - shareholders who took to the microphone slammed the company for what they called the company's participation in violating human rights